Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system, as well as the creation of red blood cells. Yet experts say B12 shortages may be one of the leading vitamin deficiencies worldwide, with nearly 25 percent of adults over the age of 50 running low in this vital vitamin.
You can usually bring your levels back up to normal with a few changes to your diet or a supplement (especially if you’re over 50). But B12 deficiency symptoms aren’t always obvious, so many folks have no idea they’re running low.
Following are eight surprising signs you’re low on vitamin B12.
1. Tingling in your hands or feet:
For many people one of the first signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency they really take notice of is a numbness or tingling in their hands of feet. Some folks describe it is a mild electrical current running through their arms and legs. Others say it feels more like pins and needles.
These unusual sensations, called peripheral neuropathies, are triggered by nerve damage caused by the lack of B12. They occur more often in seniors, but have been known to strike some younger folks too.
Neuropathies usually develop over time so the moment you notice this symptom it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. He can help you to restore your B12 levels quickly to limit, and reverse, the damage.
2. Brain fog or confusion:
Feeling foggy or finding it tough to concentrate is a common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. But sometimes the fog can get so severe it leaves you feeling confused. In fact, your doctor may misinterpret it as a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, especially if you’re a senior.
So if you (or a loved one) have been struggling with confusion make sure your doctor orders a blood test to check your B12 levels before you accept a more serious diagnosis.
Vitamin B12 is often referred to as “the energy vitamin,” because it helps convert the glucose in the food you eat into energy to power your body. Plus it plays a critical role in making the red blood cells that carry energy-boosting oxygen to all of your organs. So naturally when your B12 levels start to bottom out your energy levels often do too.
If you’re feeling less alert that usual, or downright fatigued, low B12 could be the reason.
4. Muscle weakness:
Without enough B12 on board your body can’t effectively produce red blood cells. And without enough red blood cells delivering oxygen to your muscles they begin to lose strength.
If you find yourself unable to open jars any longer, or needing to stop and rest on your daily walk out to the mailbox, it could be you need to raise your B12 levels.
5. Balance issues:
If you’ve found yourself feeling a bit unsteady on your feet, or feeling like a klutz lately, it could be your B12. According to Harvard Medical Center difficulty walking, staggering like you’ve had a few too many drinks or generally having balance issues are all signs that you may be low in B12.
6. You cry or worry a lot:
Vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of the brain chemicals that help stabilize mood. As a result a B12 deficiency can cause you to feel anxious, worried or even depressed. In fact in some cases folks who have received a depression diagnosis are simply low on B12 and just don’t know it.
If you’ve been feeling blue or anxious a lot lately, or find yourself feeling weepy at the drop of a hat, consider bumping up your B12 levels. It could help turn things around.
7. Pale or yellow skin:
Without enough B12 to build up your red blood cells you can become anemic causing your skin to become pale. And when your B12 has tanked the blood cells you still have are more fragile than they should be too. Which means they can break easily releasing a chemical called bilirubin that causes your skin to take on a yellowish look.
Raise your B12 levels and you can reverse the anemia.
8. A smooth tongue:
Around 50 percent of folks with a severe B12 deficiency lose the little bumps on their tongues called papillae. This may or may not be accompanied by burning or soreness at the back of your tongue. With the papillae gone, and some taste buds along with them, food can begin to taste bland and boring.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, don’t panic. Just call your doctor and ask for a blood test. And while you’re waiting, go ahead and stock up on healthy B12 rich foods such as free-range, organic beef, chicken, and eggs. They could have you feeling better in no time.